The ground floor of Dolmen City Mall in Clifton had too much energy for a regular Thursday evening. Festooned with replicas of typically British national symbols like Big Ben, a sentry from Buckingham Palace (an ode to Britain’s obsession with the Royal Family!), the London Bridge and a double-decker bus, the entrance of Karachi’s retail sanctuary was all geared up for the launch party of popular British department store Debenhams.
With everything from affordable swimwear and women’s apparel to home décor and accessories on display, the 27,000 square metre shop drew a handsome party of guests and curious passers-by.
Speculations that our fashion forward Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar would be at the red carpet event were quashed when Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar strolled in post-Iftar, flanked by security personnel.
“Sadly, Pakistan has always had a negative image in the West,” the governor said in his speech before the cake-cutting ceremony. “It’s a big step by a leading brand like Debenhams to invest in our country and in the city of Karachi –I wish them all the best.”
Sattar was as pleased at the prospect of another high-street fashion store making a home for itself in the metropolis. “Hopefully, next we (Pakistan) will be hosting the Olympics, too. Why not? This place is worth investing in and there is a lot more to come,” he said, in high spirits.
As platters of decorative cupcakes, mini burgers and trays of chilled ice-tea and berry smoothies were served, local celebrities and socialites mingled and shared their feelings of elation at this new venture – they could hardly wait for the ribbon cutting ceremony that would officially open the store to shoppers.
“I remember as a small boy, I used to have Debenhams’ white shirts for my school uniform,” said photographer Tapu Javeri, commending Managing Director of Team A-Ventures Yasin Paracha for bringing the store to Pakistan. Others present at the event included fashion designers Maheen Khan, Shahla Rahman, Nida Azwer and Wardha Saleem; Brands and External Communications Manager at Unilever Pakistan Fareshteh Aslam; Oxford University Press Managing Director Ameena Saiyid; stylists Nabila, Saima and Nina Lotia along with young stars like Maha Burney and Ayesha Omar.
In with the new
With some talk floating about high-street brands stocking old pieces in developing countries and reserving the trendier stock for more happening cities, we asked Yasin Paracha to shed some light on what this Debenhams franchise has in store for shoppers.
“Debenhams would never risk its name,” he said. “Nothing is old, everything is on trend and besides, by September, we will have the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection here.” He also said that the price bracket suits all ages.
More than adding yet another option to the existing high-street shops at Dolmen City Mall (Mango, Next, Nine West and Monsoon), the arrival of Debenhams heralds the dawn of foreign investors wanting to collaborate with Pakistanis to bring franchises. The advent of this mall has clearly encouraged foreign brands to find a place in Pakistan – a step that not only puts Pakistani investors on the map but also helps enhance Pakistan’s profile as a market thirsty for investment. The cheerfulness and enthusiasm at the opening of this store was reflective of this very hope of a booming economy.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.
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